Mountains Don’t Move
Although I first started developing optical interconnection
technologies around 2003, my
honest reaction when I was first told what I
would be working by my supervisor at the research
lab was “Optical interconnections? Are
you really serious?”.
There were others in my area who also had
doubts. Although we presented optical interconnection
technology at a company internal
exhibition, everyone just walked by our exhibit.
When we told people that we were working on
“10 Gbps high-capacity optical transmission”,
everyone asked “What are you going to use it
for?” There were many people who told us that
even 1 Gbps was more than they needed.
However our boss at the research labs was
as unmoving as a mountain, refrained from
making any comments on the details of our
work, and allowed us to respond to the challenges
of the problem. Although we were unable
to produce satisfactory results in the early
stages of the project, he told us not to be concerned.
Our efforts at improving the materials,
bringing the new fabrication process
online, and improving the reliability of our
unique technologies came together in this context
of having been given a certain degree of
While we had the advantage that Sony already
has accumulated laser diode and GaAs family
materials technologies, in the end, it’s the
people who make the difference. That is, the
efforts of the members of the development
team. Although the mood at the start of the
project was one of “No one needs it!”, they responded
to my encouragement that “The day
will surely come when this technology is
needed.” The truth, though, was that I myself
was the one with the most doubts.
With the increasing market penetration of high-definition
television and optical fiber, and the
appearance of next generation CPUs, the
amount of data handled in the home has increased
rapidly over the last few years. I now
hear people around me saying “I’d really like
10 Gbps” or even “No, we’re going to need
even more than that.” This has been a great
encouragement for our team.
Getting Ready for
the Coming New Age
|Now that many companies and research
organizations are working on research and
development on optical interconnection, in the
last few years our reports at academic and
industry conferences have been well received,
or at least we have sensed a positive
response. The Q&A periods last well over the
allotted time and many people offer their opinions.
Isn’t the optical module structure that uses a
45-degree mirror something that anyone involved
in this kind of research and development
would have thought of? That’s because
the structure is extremely simple. Assuring
reliability, however, is hard. I think that the
reason we were the subject of so much attention
was because we have provided data that
demonstrates the high reliability of this optical
waveguide module in addition to the
VCSEL device itself.
The goal of practical optical interconnections
is now in sight. Still, it is of course unthinkable
that all electrical wiring will be immediately
replaced by optical interconnections. Rather,
I suspect that it is more likely that conversion
will occur gradually, taking a form in which at
first only the more important of the lines between
and within equipment are converted to
optical. What would be ideal would be for
people to be able to actually try optical interconnections
systems and then realize that
optical interconnection can make it possible
to do things that were previously impossible.
For example, it would become possible to
record and edit multiple channels of high-definition
television content at the same time,
which previously would have been difficult due
to the fact that the amount of information
processed within the equipment increases
greatly. ... Since the folks in the end product
divisions, of course, have much better sensibilities
concerning application development,
I would hope that we could contribute to the
development of previously unknown consumer
products by providing elemental technologies
in a timely manner.
I really think that the time for “Optics” to make
its appearance has finally arrived. Just as incar
navigation units, which were once high-end
products for aficionados, have now become
standard equipment, once optical interconnection,
which is still seen as a technology
of the distant future, will quickly become
widely adopted once it is put into practical use.
I hope to continue to make forward-looking
proposals as preparation for such an age.
all articles with figures and tables.